Iraq: Obama's First Test

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I'm skeptical of claims that anytime any event happens overseas it's a "test" of the president. That strikes as a rather Washington-centric view of the world. Nevertheless, there are "tests" and then there are tests. And the U.S. pullback from Iraqi cities today strikes me as the latter.

At issue is a basic question: is the U.S. military an Iraqi police force, or do we let the country go its own way, even it entails renewed bloodshed?

The American pullback will test both the durability of the surge/Awakening's security gains and the Obama administration's pledge to end the war. It could very well end up in a political win-win: the Obama administration can take credit for fulfilling its campaign pledge to end the war, and the Bush administration can take credit for preventing Iraq's slide into chaos. This is the ideal, and we should all be hoping it comes to pass.

But things could go awry. Today's car bombing hints at a future of renewed violence. In such an environment, there will be a fair number of analysts, pundits and politicians who will pressure the Obama administration to slow, or even reverse, the drawn down. Then, the administration will have to choose not just between the political question of keeping faith with its pledge, but between a basic strategic issue of whether it is in America's interest to police Iraq indefinitely or whether it's time for us to leave.


Photo credit: AP Photos

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